Mental illness wears many faces. It’s the mother struggling to smile and get out of bed most days. It’s the quiet, unassuming teenager sitting in the back of the classroom. It’s the homeless man on the corner of the street sleeping off a high. Some signs of a mental health disorder are apparent—but others are not. If you believe that a loved one, or yourself, may be suffering from one of the many categorized forms of mental illness, including substance abuse, depression, anxiety, personality disorders, mood disorders, psychotic disorders, eating disorders, or trauma-related disorders, pay keen attention to the following ten warning signs you can’t afford to ignore.
- Changes in Sleep Patterns. Depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other mood disorders can result in either insomnia or fatigue. If your loved one is suffering from sleepless nights, seems to be sleeping more than half the day away, or is showing disinterest in personal care, it may be an indication of a more significant issue.
- Appetite Changes. Rapid weight loss is not only a sign of an eating disorder. It could be a sign of anxiety, depression, or other forms of mental illness. Similarly, rapid weight gain could indicate an underlying emotional or mental disorder.
- Social Withdrawal. A loved one slowly or suddenly disappearing from your social circle, declining invitations, or even missing significant time at work or school could be avoiding social situations due to feelings of anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders. Social withdrawal could also be a sign of a drug or alcohol dependency for an individual who has begun prioritizing their addiction over everything else.
- Dramatic Changes in Mood. Rapid, unexpected changes of mood, including extreme anger, fear, sadness, or uninhibited behavior, could indicate a psychotic or other mental health disorder. Such actions can also create issues between individuals and their loved ones, and can sometimes isolate them at a time when they need the support and intervention of a friend or family member more than ever.
- Cognitive Issues. Have you noticed your loved one having problems processing concepts? Does he or she demonstrate lapses in judgment or frequent forgetfulness? Problems with memory, logical processing, concentration, or even speech could be caused by a mental health issue.
- Heightened Physical Sensitivity. Someone suffering from a mental health issue may not only experience rapid emotional mood swings, but they may also be highly susceptible to physical stimuli. Such sensations may include bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, physical pressure, or unexpected contact. Someone with a mental health issue may avoid situations that they perceive will be overly stimulating, including social gatherings.
- Extreme Disinterest. When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol or living with the pain of depression or anxiety, they may not feel that they have the energy or interest to engage in the world around them. This can include social avoidance, work absences, or apathy toward events and activities with which they used to engage with joy.
- Illogical Thinking. Someone suffering from a psychotic disorder may suffer from a kind of disassociation with reality and logic that results in the individual making statements or holding beliefs that are neither rational nor lucid. They may express a sort of magical thinking akin to the ideas of a child. They may also believe that they are invincible or that they hold physical powers that, if acted upon, could result in dangerous or harmful behavior.
- Extreme Nervousness. A nervousness that is so extreme it can be categorized as irrational fear may be caused by anxiety or an eating disorder. To avoid situations that those who suffer from these disorders fear, they may exhibit increasingly reclusive behavior.
- Inability to Cope with Daily Responsibilities. Someone suffering from depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or other mental health issues may feel that their daily responsibilities are insurmountable, This may include caring for their children, grocery shopping, going to work, or completing personal care responsibilities.
While the list above is not comprehensive, if you observe any or many of the mental health indicators above, it may be time to talk to your loved one or engage the help of a mental health expert. By intervening early and compassionately, you can help a friend or family member start on the path of recovery and reclaim their life and their happiness.